The educational system of Texas is on life support. Our actions in the near future will determine whether it lives or dies. Due to “No Child Left Behind” and our legislators; our teachers have become tutors to the TAKS and now the STAAR, as well as proctors for bench mark testing, and mandatory testing. Mandatory assessment testing and preparation consumes nearly half of our students allotted instructional time. In its original intent, the mandatory tests were supposed to be an evaluation of where our students were, and where we needed to direct them with the states educational curriculum. Many districts resisted the “teaching to a test” approach; until funding and evaluations became tied to the scores. The days of preparing a student for college or the work force have been replaced with taking a standardized test.

When the system fails, and the lynch mobs begin to point fingers, searching for the culprits, who is to blame? Unfortunately, I’m afraid many of the accusations will be aimed at the teachers, and the local districts. While there may be teachers, and districts that are less than stellar, they are few and far between. Many of our teachers are sincere, caring people, who feel a sense of reward in educating a child. Those who should answer to the questioning are those on the front line who have made the decisions to put our children and our schools in this position. Our legislators made the rules the schools have had to play by. Our legislators turned the TAAS into the TAKS, and into the STAAR; growing a billion dollar business for those in the testing and curriculum business, while the education of our children has been put on the back burner. These same legislators agree that it is important to spend more money per inmate, than we do per student. How can we justify this, and claim that education is a priority? Common sense tells me that if this was reversed, we might not need so many prisons! In an election cycle, we also elect members of the Texas Board of Education. How many can you name? Do you remember who you voted for in the last cycle? We, as voters have to make educated choices in our elected officials. We have to put people in place whose priority is education. While planning our state curriculum, did Austin ever ask businessmen what type of education would prepare our students for the modern industrial and professional world? Did they ask for input from our teachers?

As parents, we live in a world that demands a great deal of us. We are constantly faced with a mortgage, rent, food, gas, and assorted other bills in a tough economy; while trying to balance being a parent. Honestly, the one common place of neglect and failure is with our children. Many students go about their education without the support and encouragement of their parent or parents. Many of these students; unless they are highly motivated, will do the minimum it takes to pass. Do not blame the teacher if half of your child’s educational life is abandoned. The teacher can not be both teacher and parent to our children.

As a community, we have the obligation and privilege to educate our children. Many policies are passed down from Washington and Austin that are mandatory; often without any funding to implement the policy. Local school boards must strive to provide the absolute best possible for our students. This means leaving behind personal agendas, and doing “the right thing” each time a decision is made. School boards must abide by the rules and regulations governing them; such as the open meetings act, nepotism, and not discriminate due to race or religion.  We must “cross our T’s and dot our I’s” for the sake of our students, and our community.

There are many reasons contributing to the decline of our educational system; from legislators playing politics, to parents failing in the basic parental skills. We must begin on the road to repair the system, or face certain failure. We can point fingers and disagree on causes and problems; but please don’t blame the teacher!

Robert Kellar